Editorial | Articles about Cambodia | Khmer

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rainsy clarifies litigation against Hun Sen in US

Thursday, 30 September 2010
Sam Rainsy
Letter to The Phnom Penh Post

Dear Editor,

I would like to bring a two-point clarification to your article titled “Rainsy files lawsuit in US court” published in The Phnom Penh Post on September 27, 2010.

First, I did not initiate a lawsuit but filed a criminal complaint with United States government prosecutors.

Second, attorney Morton Sklar who officially submitted the complaint with me and on my behalf, along with other victims of the 1997 grenade attack in Phnom Penh, was the founding executive director emeritus of World Organisation for Human Rights USA, but he has retired from that organisation. Mr Sklar acted as attorney of record in his personal capacity as indicated on the first and last pages of the September 23, 2010 Complaint and Petition.

Thank you for publishing this clarification.

Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament

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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cambodia: Rainsy Sentence Shatters Pretense of Democracy

Conviction of Opposition Leader Showcases Political Control of Judiciary



(New York) - The latest conviction of the Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy on politicized charges makes it clear that the government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is no longer interested in even the pretense of democracy, Human Rights Watch said today. Rainsy was sentenced to 10 years in prison on September 23, 2010, on charges of spreading disinformation and falsifying maps.

Human Rights Watch urged President Barack Obama to tell Hun Sen when they meet today that this incident will threaten international assistance and relations with Cambodia, especially if the government fails to take urgent action to reverse measures that undermine freedom of expression, assembly, and association. Obama is scheduled to meet with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders in New York on the fringes of the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting.
"President Obama and other world leaders need to let Hun Sen and his government know that the free ride is over," said Sophie Richardson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "Cambodia cannot sentence the leader of the opposition to 10 years in prison for peaceful expression without expecting serious consequences."

The court sentenced Rainsy, leader of the opposition since 1995, for disseminating a map that purports to show that Cambodia's border with Vietnam had been moved. The trial was closed to the public, though the verdict was read out by Judge Ke Sakhan, who said, ''The acts committed by the offender seriously affected the honor of the government." Rainsy, who has been in self-imposed exile abroad all of this year, faces prison if he returns to Cambodia.

The case is part of a concerted and longstanding campaign against Rainsy. On January 27, the Svay Rieng provincial court convicted Rainsy and two villagers, Meas Srey and Prom Chea, on charges of inciting racial discrimination and destroying demarcation posts on Cambodia's border with Vietnam. That conviction was based on an incident in October 2009, when Rainsy helped villagers in Svay Rieng remove border markers that they contended had been moved onto Cambodian territory.
"The sentencing of Rainsy takes Hun Sen's campaign of persecution of critics to a new extreme and highlights government control over the judiciary," Richardson said. "Somehow the Cambodian authorities routinely find the time to use the police and courts to attack critics, but never are able to arrest or convict those who attack, often murderously, those very same critics."

Human Rights Watch urged the United States, the European Union, Japan, and other key donors to take strong diplomatic action in response to the sentence against Rainsy, including recalling their ambassadors to demonstrate their outrage. Donors contribute approximately 50 percent of the Cambodian government's budget.

From the time he created his political party in 1995, Rainsy has been subject to assassination attempts, threats, intimidation, criminal cases, and civil court cases. On March 30, 1997, a grenade attack on a political rally he was addressing killed at least 16 people and wounded 150. Rainsy's life was saved when the full force of the blast hit one of his bodyguards.
The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, which became involved because an American citizen was harmed in the attack, found that Hun Sen's bodyguard unit was implicated, but the Cambodian government has failed to investigate or prosecute those responsible.

Senior government officials have repeatedly brought politically motivated cases against Rainsy in recent years. His immunity as a member of parliament was lifted in February 2009 after Hun Sen filed a criminal defamation complaint against him for accusing Hun Sen of corruption. Rainsy's immunity was restored after his party paid a US$2,500 fine. On November 19, 2009, his immunity was lifted again for the border markers case.

Another attempt to jail Rainsy came in December 2005 when he was sentenced to 18 months in prison on transparently political defamation charges. Rainsy was out of the country at the time. Under international pressure, Hun Sen agreed to a royal pardon in February 2006.

"For too long donors have ignored the alarming downward spiral of rights and democracy in Cambodia," Richardson said. "If they continue not to react, they will wake up some day and find that Cambodia closely resembles Burma. It is time for diplomats to stand up and be counted."
Correction

This September 24, 2010 news release incorrectly noted that the Rainsy Party was launched in 1998, whereas it was actually launched in 1995. The launch date of the Party has been corrected accordingly

Source: HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Complaint and Petition Requesting Criminal Investigation and Prosecution of Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia


SEPTEMBER 23, 2010

COMPLAINT AND PETITION REQUESTING
CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION
OF HUN SEN, PRIME MINISTER OF CAMBODIA
SUBMITTED TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE U.S.,
THE CRIMINAL DIVISION OF THE U.S DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, THE U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT
OF NEW YORK, AND FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION

CONCERNING FALSE AND FRAUDULENT STATEMENTS, AND MISREPRESENTATIONS AND THREATS MADE TO OFFICERS OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION DURING THE COURSE OF AN OFFICIAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION, IN VIOLATION OF 18 U.S.C. SECTION 1001 and SECTION 115(a)(1) (B) and (b)(4), AND CONSTITUTING OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE IN VIOLATION OF 18 U.S.C. SECTION 1501, et seq.


Submitted by Morton Sklar
Founding Executive Director Emeritus (retired)
World Organization for Human Rights USA
with, and on behalf of,
the Sam Rainsy Party of Cambodia
(the largest political opposition group)
and the following named Complainants:
Sam Rainsy, Ly Neary,
Lay Chan Thou, and Nguon Huon Heun
and U.S. citizen Ron Abney

Contact Information: Email: mshumanrights@verizon.net
Telephone: (1) (301) 946-4649


COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR CRIMINAL
INVESTIGATION AND PROSECUTION
OF HUN SEN, PRIME MINISTER OF CAMBODIA
AND NAMED SUBORDINATE OFFICIALS


I. Overview:
On March 30, 1997, a vicious grenade attack was carried out against a peaceful political rally taking place across from the Parliament building in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. According to a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry on the attack, Prime Minister Hun Sen's Personal Bodyguard military unit may well have been responsible for planning and organizing the attack, and for obstructing the capture of the grenade throwers. A team of FBI investigators was sent by the U.S. Government to compile information and evidence concerning the attack because at least one U.S. citizen was injured by the explosion of the grenades, meaning that U.S. criminal law had been violated. The FBI investigations produced a great deal of information and evidence implicating Hun Sen and his personal military unit as likely perpetrators of these violations of U.S. criminal laws, much of which was presented in testimony and submissions made to the U.S. Congress. But a full FBI investigation was not allowed to be completed because threats were made against the FBI investigators, and false and misleading statements and misrepresentations were made. These actions by Hun Sen and his subordinate officials constituted an attempt to cover-up and prevent prosecution of federal crimes, in violation of provisions of U.S. law that prohibit lying to federal officials engaged during the course of an official investigation (18 U.S.C. Section 1001), obstruction of justice (18 U.S.C. Chapter 73, including Sections 1505 and 1510), and the making of threats against federal officials (18 U.S.C. Sections 115(a)(1) B and (b)(4). This Petition and Complaint seeks a full criminal investigation and prosecution of these attempts to improperly and unlawfully cover-up and prevent the FBI's investigation of the crimes associated with the grenade attack in 1997. It is submitted in conjunction with the visit to the United Nations General Assembly by Prime Minister Hun Sen, in order to make clear his direct involvement in both the original grenade attack itself, and in the efforts by his subordinates to cover up the crimes.

The United States has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute these cover-up efforts despite the fact that the original assaults took place in Cambodia, because they constitute direct violations of U.S. laws involving the investigative work of the team of FBI agents sent to examine U.S. crimes that were perpetrated against at least one U.S. citizen, Ron Abney of the International Republican Institute, who was injured in the grenade attack. Prime Minister Hun Sen may seek to claim "head of state immunity" for his alleged involvement in the grenade attacks and the cover-up efforts. But his subordinates who were and are subject to his control and supervision, and who are heavily implicated in the grenade attack and the resulting cover-up, should be prosecuted to the full extent of U.S. law. Though we recognize that Hun Sen himself may be immune from criminal process and prosecution during the course of his visit to the United Nations General Assembly Session starting on September 23, 2010, it is important that his involvement in the U.S. crimes that have been described is recognized, and that his subordinates who participated in these crimes are held fully accountable.

Each of the Complainants filing this Petition and named on the Cover Page were adversely affected by the federal crimes described herein. The Sam Rainsy Party, then known by a different name, was the organizer of the political rally that was subjected to grenade attack on March 30, 1997. Sam Rainsy, the leader of that party was the main target of the grenade attack. Each of the other named Complainants are individuals who themselves, or through close family members, were directly affected by the grenade attacks, and by the cover-up effort that prevented the perpetrators of the attacks from being identified, prosecuted and brought to justice. This includes U.S. citizen Ron Abney, who was present in Cambodia at the time of the grenade attack as a representative of the International Republican Institute, and whose injuries during the attack served as the jurisdictional basis for the FBI investigation.

Among the individuals named in this Complaint has having directly participated in the criminal activities as described and explained herein are Hun Sen, present Prime Minister of Cambodia, General Huy Pised, General Hing Bun Heang, Chinn Savon, and Mok Chito. Others may be identified as being involved in the described obstruction of justice as a result of the investigation that we are requesting take place.

II. The FBI Investigation and Findings Regarding the Grenade Attack.
Although the FBI investigation of the grenade attack at the 1997 political rally was never completed, in part because of the obstruction and threats imposed by Cambodian Government officials, the official reports issued by the FBI team, many of which were submitted to the U.S. Congress, suggest heavy involvement in the attacks and in resulting U.S. crimes related to the cover-up efforts by Hun Sen and his direct subordinates. For example, it was widely reported in the local media, and corroborated in the FBI report, that members of Hun Sen's personal bodyguard unit, subject to his direct control and supervision, played a major role in the grenade attack, and may well have planned and organized them. Several witnesses confirmed that a large number of the members of Hun Sen's Bodyguard Unit (2nd Battalion, 17th Regiment) were stationed at the rally, which was a highly unusual practice for political demonstrations of this type since Hun Sen himself was not present, and that members of this military unit protected the perpetrators and facilitated their escape by preventing participants at the rally, and those responsible for protecting the speakers from chasing and capturing the grenade throwers as they fled the scene. The Phnom Penh Post, for example, in a front page story headlined "Grenade Suspects Unmasked" published in their May 30-June 12 edition reported that "Witnesses have said that at least two of the grenade throwers fled past ... part of the bodyguard detail of [then] Second Prime Minister Hun Sen in the park at the time of the attack ... who prevented other people from chasing them." The same article indicates that one of Sam Rainsy's personal bodyguards was reported to have told journalists that Hun Sen's bodyguard detail "prevented him from chasing the grenade throwers." A similar report appeared in the Cambodia Daily of April 2, 1997 in an article headlined "Witness Accuses Troops of Assisting Attackers." It quotes a motorbike driver who witnessed the attacks as saying that he "saw soldiers preventing protesters from pursuing the attackers."

The official FBI report of the grenade incident makes similar allegations, confirming the likely involvement in the attacks by Hun Sen's bodyguard unit. The FBI report of November 24, 1998, issued to the public by a Staff Report of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations dated October, 1999 (Senate Report 106-32, 106th Congress, 1st Session) was cited as the basis for conclusions by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff in submitting the FBI report to the Chair and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that:
  • Members of Hun Sen's Bodyguard Force participated in the planning and execution of the March 30, 1997 attack;
  • Hun Sen, being only one of two people with authority over the Bodyguard Force [the other being General Huy Pised, Commander of the Unit] must have known and approved of the attack; and,
  • By June, 1997, the U.S. Government was in possession of overwhelming evidence of conclusions number 1 and number 2 ....


Similar conclusions are outlined in a letter from the FBI to Senator Jesse Helms, then Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, dated February 19, 1999 (page 21, et seq in the Appendix attached to the Committee's Report).

These findings relating to the involvement of Hun Sen and his subordinates in the grenade attacks are significant and are highly relevant to the subsequent cover-up efforts, because they indicate that Cambodian government officials at the highest level under Hun Sen's supervision had a strong motivation for preventing the true facts concerning the attacks from coming out, for covering up the crimes, and for preventing the FBI from doing its investigative work on an effective and thorough basis, in violation of U.S. criminal laws as detailed in this Complaint.

III. The Misrepresentations and Threats Made to the FBI Investigative Team, and the Obstruction of Their Investigative Efforts, Violate U.S. Criminal Laws. As the recent prosecution and trial of Former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojavich recently demonstrated, lies and misrepresentations made to federal investigators during the course of their official investigations, and efforts to obstruct their investigative efforts, may in and of themselves constitute separate and additional violations of federal criminal law, apart from the original crimes that may have been committed that were being investigated by federal authorities, and that were unlawfully made subject to cover-up efforts. Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a separate and additional crime to make any "false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement" to a federal investigator, such as an FBI agent. Chapter 73 of Title 18 of the United States Code makes it a federal crime to attempt to obstruct proceedings or investigations of U.S. agencies (Section 1505), and specifically to obstruct criminal investigations of the type being carried out by the FBI in Cambodia (Section 1510). In addition, there is evidence that threats were made to the personal security and safety of at least one of the FBI agents participating in the investigation, constituting a violation of 18 U.S.C. Sections 115(a)(1)(B) and (b)(4), making it a federal crime subject to ten years imprisonment to threaten a Federal law enforcement officer "with intent to impede, intimidate or interfere with such official" in connection with the performance of their duties.

In addition to the provisions of federal criminal law that we have cited dealing with: 1. false statements and misrepresentations made to the FBI investigation team; 2. obstruction of the federal investigation; and, 3. threats made to federal officials, there may well be other violations of U.S. criminal laws implicated by efforts of Cambodian authorities under the control of Hun Sen to undermine and interfere with the FBI investigation of the 1997 grenade attacks. We encourage the U.S. law enforcement agencies where this Complaint/Petition is being submitted to carefully consider the applicability of all relevant federal criminal laws, including those that we have specifically noted.

There is ample evidence, including information provided in the FBI's own report of their investigation, that officials of the Cambodian Government under the direct supervision and control of Hun Sen participated in these violations of federal criminal laws, or, as in the case of Hun Sen, caused or aided and abetted in these violations. Set out below are examples of some of the findings that have been made that support the points made in this Petition/Complaint that violations of federal criminal laws occurred in the course of the obstruction of the FBI investigation.

1. Chhin Savon, the on-the-scene Police Commander who was responsible for the safety of the demonstrators at the March 30, 1997 political rally, is cited as not being cooperative with the FBI investigation, and deliberately withholding key witnesses from FBI investigators.

2. Colonel Mok Chito, Commander of the Phnom Penh Municipal Police force, and reportedly a relative of Hun Sen, is shown in videos made available by Reuters and other news media as being at the scene of the attacks almost immediately after the explosions. He was not made available for interviews by the FBI, on the orders of Chhin Savon, who claimed he was "not available."

3. Huy Pised, the Commanding General of the Hun Sen Bodyguard unit is cited along with Chhin Savon as being "uncooperative" with the FBI investigation.

4. One of the alleged perpetrators of the attack, named "Brazil," who was identified from FBI sketch artist drawings, was in the custody of General Nhiek Bun Chhay, a Cambodian government official, but somehow "escaped" when the FBI asked that he be made available for an interview, and no information was made available to the FBI concerning the circumstances of his escape. He may have ended up in the hands of the Hun Sen forces who took control of the military headquarters where Brazil was being held during the coup d'etat in July, 1997. As a result, Brazil was never made available for interview by the FBI despite numerous requests.

5. According to a May, 1997 report by a Cambodian police official providing information to the FBI, several eyewitnesses claimed that only hours after the attack "two men who looked like suspects" identified in the FBI sketch artists report "were seen boarding a helicopter in the company of Him Bun Heang, the Deputy of General Huy Pised, Commanding General of the Hun Sen Bodyguard unit, and another Cambodian official. Commander Teng Savong denied this allegation.

6. One of the FBI investigators is reported to have said that "Those men who threw the grenades are not ordinary people, they are Hun Sen's soldiers," and to have substantiated this statement by pointing out that the grenade throwers "escaped into the nearby [Hun Sen military] compound, abetted by guards who opened the gates for them and who then denied seeing anything."

7. FBI investigators confirmed that General Pised and his subordinates "lied to us" when they reported that there were only 15 members of the Hun Sen bodyguard unit on duty at the scene of the political demonstration and grenade attacks, when in fact there were "up to 40" members of the unit on site. These bodyguard unit members also lied to FBI investigators when they claimed "that they did not see any perpetrator of the grenade attack cross their line," and that they saw nothing.

8. Personal threats are reported to have been made to U.S. Embassy officials against FBI investigator Thomas Nicoletti with the intention of intimidating and influencing his and the FBI's investigative efforts.

It is our understanding that no statute of limitations period applies to Title 18 Section 1001, Title 18 Chapter 75, and Title 18 Section 115 violations, as no time limit is mentioned in any of these provisions, despite the fact that the violations occurred in connection with federal investigations that took place in 1997. Moreover, even if a time limitation applied, there is evidence that the cover-up efforts kept information about these crimes from being made public until recently, thereby tolling any time limits that may be applicable.

IV. Why These Violations of Federal Law Require Attention Despite the Passage of Time Since the Crimes Were Committed. The Petitioner/Complainants are very well aware that the criminal acts that serve as the basis for this Complaint were committed some time ago. They also are aware that since the actions of officials of a foreign government are involved, sensitive political and foreign policy issues are raised by this Complaint that might counsel for caution or inaction on the part of the U.S. government in deciding whether investigation and prosecution of the federal crimes is justified. Nevertheless, there are important reasons, despite the passage of time and potential foreign policy impacts, why Hun Sen and his subordinates should be held accountable under U.S. law for their actions in interfering with the FBI investigation of the attack on a political rally in Cambodia in 1997 that resulted in injuries to a U.S. citizen, and death and injuries to so many Cambodians.

No one that directly interferes with a U.S. criminal investigation should be treated with impunity because they are foreign citizens, or committed their violations of U.S. law in foreign nations. The integrity of our criminal justice system and the rule of law demands that justice be done, even if the criminal violations took place some time ago. As important, recent developments in Cambodia suggest that Hun Sen and his subordinates are continuing their efforts to escape justice and avoid the reach of the law in many new ways that demand attention. If they can avoid responsibility for past acts, they are emboldened to commit further abuses, and that seems to be the pattern that is developing.

Recent reports indicate that Hun Sen's government is seeking to interfere with and undermine the investigations and prosecutions that are being undertaken by the Special International Criminal Tribunal (officially referred to as the Extraordinary Chambers) for Cambodia that was established under joint United Nations and Cambodian auspices to deal with war crimes and crimes against humanity that took place during the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979, when more than 1.7 million Cambodians were subjected to genocide for political reasons. Notably, Hun Sen was a member of the Khmer Rouge military during that period. Though the International Tribunal was established in 2003, there have been few prosecutions and convictions, largely attributed to "interference by the Cambodian government." The Phnom Penh Post reported on September 13, 2010 that the Cambodian judges on the Tribunal, who are appointed and controlled by the Hun Sen regime, have refused to allow fair investigations to take place, and a number of high level government officials have refused to honor subpoenas to testify, "reinforcing serious concerns about interference" with the Court from the Hun Sen government. "The big question is ... whether the court will be able to deliver a fair trial according to international standards, or whether we're going to have a trial in the usual Cambodian tradition where the government decides the outcome," according to one of the lawyers at the Tribunal. This sounds very reminiscent of how the Hun Sen government handled, and interfered with, the FBI investigation of the 1997 grenade attack. News reports just were issued on September 16, 2010, that four additional high-level leaders of the Khmer Rouge genocide had been indicted by the Tribunal. They were accompanied by continuing concerns being voiced about "political interference" and a "lack of cooperation" by Hun Sen's government, based on the reality that many former Khmer Rouge officials hold senior positions in the current administration." (Reuters article "UN Backed Tribunal Indicts 4 Khmer Rouge Leaders," Sept. 16, 2010)

The Hun Sen government also is associated with a number of recent repressive policies and actions aimed at limiting and punishing political opposition. The National Public Radio program "The World" aired a report on August 10, 2010 indicating that the Hun Sen government was in the process of adopting a new law, the Non-Government Organization Law, that would effectively prevent private groups from engaging in opposition political activities, allow the government to disband and prosecute groups that disagreed with government policies without any due process standards, and authorize the imprisonment of NGO leaders. "The concern," according to The World correspondent Mary Kay Magistan, "is that ... the squeeze on civil society is only getting worse and the proposed NGO law will give the government yet another way to silence voices and challenges it would prefer not to hear. Magistan suggests that the new policy is reminiscent of when Hun Sen first was installed as Prime Minister, when "no opposition parties, no democratic elections" and no non-governmental activities were permitted by the government.

Amnesty International has issued a special report on Cambodia human rights non-compliance concerns to the 15th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council indicating that the problem of "impunity" -- the failure of the Cambodian government to secure justice in instances of major human rights abuses -- has been on ongoing issue that is not being addressed. Their report notes many cases where, "Those responsible for the homicide of several civil society figures have still not been identified and brought to justice." (Amnesty 2010 Report, page 7) This includes many current cases, including that of trade unionist Chea Vichea, shot dead in 2004, trade unionist Hy Vuthy, killed in February 2007, and journalist Khim Sambor, murdered with his son in 2008, along with eight other journalists working for opposition media. Similar concerns are voiced in a special report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Cambodia, Professor Surya Subedi, noting "various shortcomings in the criminal justice system" producing "numerous ... instances of miscarriage of justice," ... and many "constraints on the judiciary's ability to act" on an independent basis. Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Brad Adams, also recently noted the Cambodian government's "relentless crackdown on critics" and on opposition political figures. (January 28, 2010 Human Rights Watch Statement)

Under these increasingly repressive circumstances, where impunity has become an ongoing and commonplace policy of the Hun Sen government to prevent the proper administration of justice, the investigation by the U.S. of Hun Sen's interference with the FBI probe in 1997 will be an important reminder that the rule of law, and accountability for violations of U.S. criminal sanctions, can not be ignored.

V. Action and Relief Requested. In view of the likelihood of the wide range of federal criminal law violations that have been identified and described above, Complainant/Petitioners hereby respectfully request that the appropriate U.S. law enforcement agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (where Hun Sen and his subordinates will be physically located on and around September 24, 2010 during his visit to the United Nations General Assembly Session):

1. Promptly and fully investigate the violations of federal U.S. law that have been alleged related to misrepresentations made to the FBI team investigating the 1997 grenade attack in Cambodia, and to the attempts that were made to obstruct their investigations.

2. Identify and seek the criminal accountability of those responsible for violations of U.S. criminal laws, including Hun Sen to the extent that any head of state immunity claim that he may make is not applicable. It should be noted that the grenade attack on the general population that is involved, resulting in mass murders, may well constitute "crimes against humanity" under the definition provided in Section 7 of the International Criminal Court Statute as a "widespread ... attack directed against any civilian population" that result in murder or persecution based on political grounds. As such, head of state immunity claims would not be available under Article 27 of the Statute, and time limits on prosecutions would not apply.

3. Issue a comprehensive public report on the findings made by the FBI team investigating the 1997 grenade attack, and the findings resulting from the current investigation of the unlawful cover-up efforts that have been requested in this Petition and Complaint.

Respectfully submitted this 21st day of September, 2010 by:

__________________________
Morton Sklar
Founding Executive Director Emeritus (retired)
World Organization for Human Rights USA

On behalf of the Sam Rainsy Party (the largest political opposition party in Cambodia) and the other named Complainants.

General Contact Information:
Email: mshumanrights@verizon.net
Tele: (1) (301) 946-4649
Contact information for the individual complainants can be provided on request to government prosecutors, and has been withheld in this submission for security reasons.

Note: This Complaint and Petition is filed by Mr. Sklar as Attorney of Record in his personal capacity, and is not an official submission or action of Human Rights USA.

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

TODAY’S VERDICT FROM A KANGAROO COURT



On a purely technical and truly legal ground, the charges levied against me by the Cambodian government are totally baseless.

Swiss independent map expert Régis Caloz, a professor at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne who had been consulted on the issue, wrote on March 23, 2010 a detailed technical report showing that I have not “produced” or “falsified” any map and that the conclusions I have reached on the issue of Cambodian farmers losing their lands because of border encroachment, are correct. Professor Caloz’s report has been acknowledged by the Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union and its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, and is available to everybody.

Therefore, the charges against me are of a strictly political nature. Only a Kangaroo court can issue the type of verdict we saw today. Everybody, from independent human rights organizations to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Cambodia, rightly says that the judiciary in this country is everything but independent, being only a political tool for the authoritarian ruling party to silence any critical voices.

Today’s verdict actually reflects the Vietnamese government’s anger against, and worry about, me because I dared, as a Cambodian member of parliament, defend Cambodian farmers, who are my constituents, against continuous border encroachments by Vietnam.

Following a border incident on October 25, 2009 when I uprooted a fake border post illegally planted on a rice field belonging to a Cambodian farmer in Svay Rieng province, there had been no reaction whatsoever from any Cambodian official or authority. The first public reaction actually came ten days later, on November 4, from Vietnam’s prime minister in person, Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung who officially recommended from Hanoi that the Phnom Penh government punish me.

Today’s verdict is the reflection and the result of that recommendation from a foreign country.

Sam Rainsy
Member of Parliament
(Currently travelling from London to Paris)

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Exiled Cambodian Leader Sentenced to 10 Years in Jail

By Robert Carmichael | Phnom Penh (VOANEWS.COM)



The leader of Cambodia's main opposition party, Sam Rainsy, was sentenced to prison in a dispute about the border with neighboring Vietnam. But his supporters claim the case is politically motivated.

The municipal court in Phnom Penh on Thursday handed down a 10-year prison sentence to Rainsy because he displayed a map that had a different border between Cambodia and Vietnam than the one the government uses. During his trial earlier this month, the government's lawyer told the court that Sam Rainsy's action amounted to disinformation and falsifying of public documents.

The judges agreed, and handed down the prison term and a $16,000 fine. They also issued an arrest warrant for Sam Rainsy, who lives in exile in France.

The opposition leader had no chance for a fair trial, says his party's spokesman Yim Sovann, because the courts answer to the ruling party.

"Based on the verdict, not only one verdict, but the previous one, to my understanding and to the understanding of the people of Cambodia and the international community, this court is not independent," he said. "This court is used as a political tool to muzzle the opposition party."

The dispute dates back a year when Sam Rainsy and two villagers removed wooden posts marking the border between Cambodia and Vietnam. He received a two-year jail term for that and the villagers were each jailed for a year.

The two nations are in the middle of a six-year exercise to map their 1,270-kilometer border. Sam Rainsy has said Cambodia is losing land to Vietnam in the process.

The issue is a sensitive one for the government. Prime Minister Hun Sen maintains close relations with Vietnam, although many Cambodians are distrustful of their neighbor. In addition, Cambodia is involved in a tense border dispute with Thailand, which at times has turned violent.

Spokesman Yim Sovann says the government is growing less tolerant because it fears the opposition as the country heads toward the 2013 general election. He calls Thursday's verdict a "step backward for democracy" and he is calling for international help to prevent what he terms a slide toward authoritarianism.

"The international community has spent a lot of money to build democracy in Cambodia, to promote human rights, to help to build the rule of law," says Yim Sovann. "So if the leader of the biggest opposition party is in exile or facing jail term of more than 10 years, we can not say that Cambodia is democratic."

Mr. Hun Sen's government has long been accused of using lawsuits to silence critics. This month, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Cambodia, Surya Subedi, issued a report saying the courts are corrupt and often beholden to the ruling party. Among other things, he recommended that public figures become more tolerant of criticism and stop using the courts against their critics.

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Soviet-made T-55 tank is unloaded at Preah Sihanouk port

Reuters Pictures: A Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carrier (APC) is unloaded from a ship at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported.
A Soviet-made T-55 tank is unloaded at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T-55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported (REUTERS PICTURES)
Russian-made BTR-60 armoured personnel carriers (APC) are seen on a ship prior being unloaded at Preah Sihanouk port, about 230 km (142.9 miles) west of Phnom Penh September 20, 2010. Cambodia has bought 44 APCs and 50 new T55 tanks as part of the country's effort to "strengthen sovereignty" following the tension with Thailand over the World Heritage listed Preah Vihear temple since 2008, the pro-government newspaper Rasmei Kampuchea Daily reported (REUTERS PICTURES)

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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tribunal Indicts Four in Cambodian Genocide

By By Douglas Gillison / Phnom Penh (TIME)

Former Khmer Rouge deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs Ieng Sary stands in the courtroom during a public hearing at the Extraodinary Chambers in the Court of Cambodia on April 30, 2010.

Thirty-one years after the darkest era in Cambodian history, the surviving leaders of the communist Khmer Rouge movement were indicted on Thursday for the deaths of nearly two million people. In an order signed at midnight, judges at a tribunal specially convened to investigate and try the crimes of the Democratic Kampuchea government, which ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, ordered that four aging suspects stand trial for what the court deemed was "an attack on the entire population of Cambodia.

The indictments bring charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and, under Cambodian law, murder, torture and religious persecution. Investigators estimate that as many as 800,000 deaths across Cambodia were violent — just under a third of the regime's alleged victims but roughly as many people as were killed during the entire Rwandan genocide in 1994. The majority of those killed by the regime succumbed to starvation, disease and overwork as the government set out to transform Cambodian society and destroy its supposed oppressor classes.
See TIME's photoessay "The Rise and Fall of the Khmer Rouge."

"Some commentators have said, and I believe they were correct, that this matter is the most complex since the Nuremberg tribunal," Judge Marcel Lemonde of France, who also announced his resignation after a tumultuous four years, told reporters gathered at the U.N.-backed court on Thursday. A trial is expected in the first half of next year.

The four accused are former revolutionaries who seized power in 1975 at the end of a civil war with a U.S. client regime. Foremost among them is Nuon Chea, 84, known as Brother Number Two, the communist party's deputy secretary and a member of the inner circle who created the Khmer Rouge's policies of execution. He is joined by the former Foreign Minister Ieng Sary, 84, a public champion of the Khmer Rouge campaign to root out supposed political enemies, and his wife, Ieng Thirith, 78, a former Minister of Social Action. The regime's head of state, Khieu Samphan, 79, who chaired the party's central committee as it planned the deadliest of its purges of government officials, is also to stand trial.

The court's two co-investigating judges dropped the charges against Kaing Guek Eav, better known as Duch, who was sentenced to 35 years in July for the murders of an estimated 14,000 people in his role as commander of the Khmer Rouge secret police. Judges said that in the investigation concluded Thursday they had uncovered no new evidence concerning Duch.

The investigation came to an end in raucous fashion. In addressing the media, Judge Lemonde and his Cambodian counterpart Judge You Bunleng congratulated each other for what they considered personal and professional triumphs. But in the course of three years of inquiry, the two publicly disagreed more than once over politically charged matters, provoking outrage among international judges and the defense, which repeatedly sought the investigating judges' disqualification and removal. In a minority opinion last week, two pretrial judges wrote that the investigating judges had "repeatedly refused to take action on defense claims of government interference in the investigation and that fair trials may now be less likely as a result.


Defense lawyers yesterday said they expected to appeal and reiterated their lack of confidence in the investigation, which Michael Karnavas, an American lawyer who is defending Ieng Sary, the former minister of foreign affairs, has called "a disappointment from the very beginning.

Michiel Pestman, a Dutch lawyer defending Nuon Chea, said the Khmer Rouge had largely been convicted already in the court of public opinion. "I am certainly not defending monsters; I am defending people," he said by telephone after the indictments were announced. "We are used to fighting public perception. That is why it's so important that we have an impartial and fair trial."

In appealing for funding, administrators at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, as the tribunal is officially known, which is facing weak financial support and a $10 million budget shortfall this year, have described the trials likely to begin next year as the most complex ever prosecuted. Hopes of bringing significant numbers of those responsible to justice were always slim: of seven members of the communist party's standing committee in 1975, five were killed by the regime itself during broad purges of suspected enemies in 1978.

In the intervening years, the architects and soldiers of the regime have escaped justice in succession by dying: Pol Pot, the secretive Khmer Rouge prime minister known as Brother Number One, died in 1998 in a remote Khmer Rouge redoubt near the Thai border. A year earlier, he had ordered the assassination of his former Defense Minister, Son Sen, along with his family. Pol Pot's wife, Khieu Ponnary, died in 2003. Ke Pauk, secretary of the Central Zone died in 2002. The feared Southwest Zone secretary Ta Mok died of complications from tuberculosis while in a military prison in 2006 and the former commerce minister Van Rith, suspected of sending staff members to their deaths at the hands of the secret police, died quietly in the countryside outside Phnom Penh in 2008.

Van Rith had been the subject of preliminary inquiries by U.N. prosecutors as part of a separate case that is opposed by the Cambodian government, which maintains that no more than five suspects will be tried. With Thursday's indictments, the court has reached that maximum. Van Rith died as Cambodian prosecutors objected to U.N. prosecutors' plans to open a new case in which he would have been included.
(Comment on this story.)

For Youk Chhang, director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, a local organization that supplied much of the court's documentary record, the case for which investigation concluded this week is the most important the court will ever conduct, regardless pf what becomes of the additional cases opened by U.N. prosecutors. "The question is, �Why did Cambodians kill Cambodians?' That is the most important question that has been put forward and only Case 002 can do that," Youk says, using the case number for Thursday's indictment. It "would lead us to what is next," he says. "It will trickle down how far you can go."
See TIME's photessay "The Legacy of Pol Pot."

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The Killing Fields and Indonesia's Relations with Cambodia Revisited

By Jim Luce (Huffingtonpost.com)



I first met Benny Widyono at an Indonesian Consulate fete years ago. I knew upon meeting him that he had an extraordinary mind and knew Asia's southeast as well as he knew this nation's northeast. Living in Connecticut and commuting to his office at the U.N. for decades - when he wasn't living in Phnom Phen, clued me into that reality. I told him if he ever wrote his memoirs I wanted to read them. Sure enough, they arrived by post last week. And they are riveting.

The book Dancing in Shadows: Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge, and the United Nations in Cambodia has just been published. It is excellent. I had planned to read it next month, but I could not put it down. It is well written, engaging, and highly informative. I now understand so much more of Cambodia's Cold-War history and how it led to the Killing Fields in which about two million Cambodians perished. Google reviewers have given this excellent book 4.5 stars.

Dr. Benny Widyono was born "Hong Lan Oei," but during the madness of the anti communist/anti-Chinese period in Indonesia that killed 800,000 suspected Communists including ethnic Chinese - also a result of the Cold War - his name was "nativized" under the Suharto regime. Indonesians were still not allowed to read or speak Chinese when I first arrived there in 1995. Thus, my struggle to adopt an Indonesian Chinese infant then to get him away from there. However, today normalcy has returned to the Republic and Chinese language and culture are no longer criminalized.

Benny is thus an excellent guide to post-colonial Cambodia. As a recipient of the title of Commandeur de L'Ordre Royal de Sahametrey in 2004, the highest title for civilians bestowed by H.M. King Sihanouk of Cambodia, Benny played an integral role working with the U.N. in the recovery from the death and destruction of Pol Pot in a way that a non-South East Asian could have. Another key player at the time was the Japanese head of United Nations in Cambodia, Yasushi Akashi.

Benny notes in his book the King's words to the Japanese head of the U.N. presence in Cambodia:


"I wish to thank you, Excellency Mr. Yasushi Akashi, for sending another prince from Java to help bring peace to Cambodia," quipped Norodom Sihanouk, the King of Cambodia, referring to me.

We were at the official inauguration of my office, the provincial headquarters of the U.N. Transitional Authority on Cambodia (UNTAC) in Siemreap, Cambodia in 1992, the U.N. Peacekeeping operation established to bring peace to Cambodia.

Prior to our arrival, Cambodia was, due to its political location, been for 20 years the subject of turmoil, civil war and Khmer Rouge induced genocide. To end the stalemate of Cambodia having two governments... the U.N. became the temporary government until elections could be held.

Yasushi Akashi was the head of UNTAC and therefore, temporarily, the head of the country. I was his "governor" of Siemreap Province, home of the world famous Angkor Wat temple.


Benny's life is fascinating because he was raised in Indonesia in a minority religion - Roman Catholicism - and yet he attended the most prestigious university there, the University of Indonesia in Jakarta. He went on to study economics in the University of Texas. His Ph.D. dissertation compared the role of petroleum in economic development in Mexico and Indonesia. One week after he graduated he was offered a position with the United Nations in Thailand, beginning his professional and personal odyssey.

In 1981, Benny was transferred back to New York to work on helping countries cope with multinational corporations. In his new capacity he writes of coming home late from New York City as now his work at the U.N. consisted of "going to endless cocktail parties to lobby with ambassadors and other diplomats of member states. Most of the work gets done in these parties."

At the U.N. cocktail parties, he notes ruefully, the poorer the country the more lavish its reception:


One day Ethiopia celebrated its tenth anniversary of the Marxist revolution in that country with unlimited shrimps and other delicacies and whiskey and wine flowing all evening while we see pictures on BBC TV of starving Ethiopians looking like corpses.

Another anomaly was that the Khmer Rouge ambassador, who was responsible for killing 1.7 million of its own people, would strut about shaking hands with everybody to lobby against that bad fellow Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia who de facto ruled the country since 1979, because the U.S. and China spearheaded a resolution in the U.N. to continue to recognize the Khmer Rouge instead of the People's Republic of Kampuchea.


It is this encounter with the Khmer Rouge ambassador, plus his experiences in Thailand where he had witnessed Cambodian refugees escape the Khmer Rouge atrocities and appear -- one by one -- from the jungle like emaciated corpses. These survivors reminded him of those in Ethiopia which made me decide to volunteer for Cambodian service for the U.N. I wrote about such survivors such as my good friend Ambassador Sichan Siv, whose story I have also told.

Benny eventually represented the U.N. Secretary General in Cambodia after the Killing Fields in which about two million Cambodians perished

We all have this myth that we control our lives. Benny tells it as it is:


One day, in the restroom of my floor, the 31st floor of the United Nations, I stood next to Yasushi Akashi, who just became the head of UNTAC in Cambodia. I congratulated him and asked whether he can take me along to Cambodia. Knowing me well he said yes, you will be the governor of Siemreap Province., which has Angkor Wat and is the most Khmer Rouge invested province.

I said yes as I did not want to languish in some idyllic province on the beach where nothing happened. Thus the last five years I was transferred to Cambodia, where I was at the political forefront of the political turmoil in the tragedy of Cambodia. It turned out to be the best assignment and I found out that my real fascination was with politics which I watched first hand. It is like studying while getting paid at the same time.


In his capacity of UNTAC Governor, Benny inspected U.N. forces in Cambodia.

Benny writes in his book that Akashi was right:


I got plenty of excitement and adventure in Siemreap where the Khmer Rouge murderers were ever present although at day time Hun Sen's People's Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) reigned supreme in almost all the country.

Siemreap was attacked many times by the Khmer Rouge. Since it was too dangerous for wives to join their husbands my wife stayed in Connecticut although she came to visit me several times. Live was very primitive as the Hun Sen government was isolated by the U.N.

Danger was ever present and at night I could not sleep if I don't hear mortar fire as Hun Sen's troops were fighting the Khmer Rouge. One day Siemreap was attacked by 800 Khmer Rouge. I called my wife in Stamford from the only telephone at my headquarters. After a full day Hun Sen troops drove them away.


Soon he received a phone call from the powers that were in U.N. Headquarters in New York and he was appointed the political envoy of the Secretary-General Boutros Boutros Ghali in Cambodia.

Benny Widyono, Mrs. Bintari Sudarpo, King Norodom Sihanouk, Queen Monineath, with Indonesian Ambassador Taufik Sudarpo, and Benny's wife Francisca.

Soon, his wife joined him full time. They were often invited, together with other ambassadors, to dinner with the King. He watched over dinners and diplomatic dispatches - and reported to his new boss Kofi Annan - that as Cambodia acquired two prime ministers who were former enemies, and with the "wily king pulling the string from behind the scene," he smelled trouble. Both sides clashed and in 1997 Hun Sen became the only prime minister. Benny then reached the age of 60 -- the mandatorily retirement age at the U.N. - and he moved back to the U.S. to teach at several universities including Cornell.

Dr. Benny Widyono with Prime Minister Hun Sen who after the clash in 1997 continued to consolidate his power until today 2010.

Benny has remained active with Cambodia and continues includes a board position with the Peoples Improvement Organization, an NGO running slum area schools in Phnom Penh now with 850 students who each day get lunch and education in English. These schools were founded one of his former staffers, Phymean Noun, who became a CNN hero in 2009 for her work with children.

Benny sits on the Board position of an NGO running slum area schools in Phnom Penh founded one of his former staffers honored as a CNN hero for her work with children.

I have been delighted to know Dr. Benny Widyono, born "Hong Lan Oei," as an outstanding Indonesian-American active with the United Nations in Cambodia and around the world. His compassion for all - especially children - has impressed me greatly. Above and beyond being a thought leader and global citizen, Benny has been able to share his gripping life in an exceptional book. I highly recommend it.

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Thailand, Cambodia look beyond Thaksin


By James O'Toole

PHNOM PENH - Former Thai premier and fugitive from justice Thaksin Shinawatra's arrival on his private jet in Phnom Penh last year was broadcast live on local television, the climax of weeks of diplomatic intrigue that brought relations between Thailand and Cambodia to their lowest point in years.

Arriving nominally as an economics adviser to the Cambodian government, the ousted leader served mainly as a pawn in a spat between Bangkok and Phnom Penh that saw the countries withdraw their respective ambassadors and engage in an unflattering war of words over the next several months.

The abrupt announcement of Thaksin's "resignation" from his post last month has been cause for rapprochement, with ambassadors returned to their posts and a meeting scheduled between Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Thai counterpart Abhisit Vejjajiva in New York next week.

Yet for all the pomp attached to Thaksin's comings and goings, the current rapprochement between Thailand and Cambodia can only steal the spotlight for so long from their more fundamental disagreement over their shared border. Ironically, Thaksin's advisory appointment caused significant economic harm for Cambodia.

In retaliation, Bangkok tore up a 2001 memorandum of understanding on joint development of a 26,000 square kilometer area in the Gulf of Thailand thought to contain significant oil and gas reserves. Cambodia's exports to Thailand plunged 50% year-on-year in the first six months of 2010, while many Thai investors have likely been dissuaded from investing in Cambodia in view of the acrimony between the countries.

Politically, though, Thaksin provided Hun Sen with a chance to ratchet up tensions with a traditional enemy and intensify his border rhetoric to a rather outlandish extent. "Do you dare to swear on magic that could break your neck, on a plane crash or a dissolution of the countries, that your soldiers did not invade Cambodia's territory?" Hun Sen said in a speech last year, apparently addressing Abhisit.

Tension over the border erupted in 2008 after the listing of Preah Vihear temple as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site for Cambodia, as both sides laid claim to a 4.6-square-kilometer patch of land adjacent to the temple. The issue flared up again last month after a meeting of UNESCO's World Heritage committee in which Cambodia submitted management plans for the temple.

The countries are in the process of demarcating their border, but talks have been stalled since last year pending approval of the latest round of negotiations in the Thai parliament. Abhisit and his Democrat party-led government are under intense pressure from hardline elements of the nationalist "yellow shirt" movement not to give any ground in the territorial dispute, and a vote in the Thai parliament to approve the latest negotiations was again postponed last month, to the ire of Cambodian leaders.

Cambodia has been pressing aggressively to bring attention to the dispute, appealing to both the United Nations and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for assistance. ASEAN assistance was required, Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong said, to help avoid "large-scale armed conflict" along a frontier in which at least seven soldiers have been killed in periodic skirmishes since 2008.

These appeals have irked Thai officials, who have repeatedly stated their opposition to border talks in any forum but a bilateral one. The move to cut ties with Thaksin may be the latest element of Cambodia's border strategy, said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights.

"It gives Cambodia the upper hand when the Thaksin issue has been played out," Ou Virak said, with the move allowing Phnom Penh to "separate the Preah Vihear conflict or tension from other kinds of issues".

Amid its diplomatic maneuvering, Cambodia is also bidding very publicly to upgrade its military capabilities at the border. This week, the government announced the purchase of dozens of T55 tanks and armored personnel carriers.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre bit of corporate charity that has drawn condemnation from rights groups, a local television station is collecting donations to help build reinforced concrete bunkers for combat troops at the border.

Carlyle Thayer, a professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said these efforts were largely "grandstanding" for the benefit of a domestic audience. "You can't take it at face value - there's no way that Cambodia is ever going to acquire the military power to take on Thailand in a conventional military conflict," Thayer said.

He said the militarization that Hun Sen has been pushing in relation to the border may be an effort to consolidate his support in the military, an institution that is the only conceivable counterweight to his near-absolute power. "It keeps the military on his side if you talk about an external threat or their importance," Thayer said.

For Thailand, the border dispute with Cambodia remains a key issue in a domestic political crisis that shows no sign of being resolved any time soon.

"The real reason that the border issue is a problem is not because Cambodia has these claims - the real reason the border issue is a problem is that the yellows accuse the reds [Thaksin supporters] of giving away a national asset," said Michael Montesano, a visiting fellow at Singapore's Institute for Southeast Asian Studies.
"The government doesn't want to have to deal with large-scale yellow-shirt demonstrations, and the lives of people in the government can be made very difficult and the lives of their families can be made very difficult if they are seen as somehow stepping back from the yellow cause."

Signs do, for the moment, point to a warming of relations. With the return of their ambassadors - absent for more than nine months - Cambodia and Thailand have now resumed full diplomatic ties, and Abhisit and Hun Sen are scheduled to meet again in October following their meeting in New York next week.

Montesano said Thaksin's "resignation" had in fact likely been brokered in secret talks between the two governments, with Bangkok perhaps hoping to get closer to apprehending red-shirt leaders known to be hiding out in Cambodia after the May 19 military crackdown on protests in Bangkok.

In a surprise move in early July, Cambodian authorities apprehended two Thais believed to be red-shirt supporters and suspected of involvement in a bomb attack on the headquarters of Bhum Jai Thai, the second-largest party in Abhisit's ruling coalition. Phnom Penh handed over the suspects to Thai authorities without a formal extradition request from Bangkok.

"This is to show the willingness of the government in fighting terrorism," Koy Kuong, Cambodia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, said after their arrests.

At the very least, Thaksin's departure has given Hun Sen and Abhisit the political cover to hold talks on economic issues and other obvious common interests. The border dispute continues to loom large in their relationship, however, and for the moment, appears indifferent to external developments.

Just one day after Thaksin's resignation was announced, the Cambodian government's Press and Quick Reaction Unit (PQRU) issued a statement accusing Abhisit of becoming "an accomplice and a sponsor of criminal-prone activity" by the yellow shirts.

"Once again, the [PQRU] urges Thai political figures to put an end to the malicious campaign of innuendo, suggestion and speculation to fault Cambodia by raising the issue of the Temple of Preah Vihear," the statement read.

James O'Toole is a Phnom Penh-based journalist.
source: Asia Times Online

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Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Cambodian unions say garment strike coul

AFP

A mass strike by tens of thousands of Cambodian garment workers entered its third day on Wednesday, with unions warning the stoppage could go on for weeks if employers ignored their wage demands.

Estimates for the number of workers taking part in the industrial action varied wildly, but both unionists and employers agreed that more people had joined the strike since it began on Monday.

Kong Athit, secretary general of the Cambodian Labour Confederation, said more than 190,000 workers at 90 factories had taken part, up from 60,000 on Monday.

But that estimate was disputed by the Garment Manufacturers' Association in Cambodia (GMAC), which put the figure at just over 30,000.

The walkout is the latest in a string of recent strikes in Asian countries, as employees demand a larger share of the region's economic growth.

Cambodia's garment industry -- which produces items for renowned brands including Gap, Benetton, Adidas and Puma -- is a key source of foreign income for the country and employs about 345,000 workers.

The strike follows a deal between the government and industry that set the minimum wage for garment and footwear staff at $US61 ($A65) a month.

Unions say the salary is not enough to cover food, housing and travel expenses, and want a base salary of $US93 ($A99).

Athit told AFP that the number of strikers had exceeded expectations because "the workers are having difficulties surviving on their low wages".

He also threatened to keep the industrial action going for weeks if necessary.

"If there is no response from the employers by September 18, we will have a meeting with our union representatives to decide to continue the strike for at least a month," he said.

Ken Loo, secretary general of the GMAC, said many workers had been prevented from going to work or stayed away because of threats they would be beaten up.

"It is quite sad that the police aren't taking action when these people are breaking the law," he added.

Manufacturers have warned that the strike will result in a loss of production and a drop in orders from buyers, harming Cambodia's standing among investors.

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Scope exists for expanding modest Indo-Cambodian economic ties: Patil


Phnom Penh (Cambodia), Sept.15 (ANI): Making a pitch for India as an investor-friendly destination, visiting Indian President Pratibha Devisingh Patil on Wednesday said the modest level of economic ties between India and Cambodia needed to be broadened.

Addressing an India-Cambodia Business meeting here, President Patil said: "India-Cambodia economic relations are at a modest level, but there exists much greater scope for expansion. Total bilateral trade is approximately 50 million dollars, with pharmaceuticals being the dominating item of India's export basket."


"I am certain it is possible to expand the bilateral trade basket, which requires initiatives to create awareness among the business communities of the two countries about the quality and prices of exportable goods and import requirements," she added.

Recalling that India and Cambodia had started the process of economic liberalization almost together in the 1990s, Patil said the pace of economic growth in both countries has accelerated since then.

"Cambodia figured among an exclusive group of countries to achieve double digit growth in its GDP for a few years in a row, prior to the global economic crisis.... India is a trillion dollar economy and is ranked as the fourth largest economy in the world on the basis of purchasing power parity. India is a large, attractive and a growing market," the Indian President said.

Urging the Cambodian business community to make full use of the investment opportunities provided by India, she said: " Indian companies have invested overseas and are looking for opportunities to do more business. Frequent business interactions will help in identifying the many investment opportunities in mining, oil and gas, hydropower, infrastructure, tourism, among others."

Praising Cambodia for exploring ways to improve agriculture productivity, as well as to transform Cambodia into a rice basket and a key rice exporting country in the world, Patil said: "We welcome these initiatives of the Cambodian Government and I can assure that India would cooperate and share its experience with Cambodia in achieving this objective."

Indian experts could also be deputed to Cambodia under bilateral co-operation arrangements to take trade and investment opportunities in the agriculture sector forward, she added.

India, she said, also has a strong presence of small and medium enterprises.

"I believe Cambodia is keen to expand its manufacturing base to add value to its local agro-produce and also for other products to meet local demand. These sectors, along with IT and IT-enabled services, could be areas, which are worth exploring," she said.

"Cambodia's central location in the ASEAN region is useful as India seeks to expand its economic engagement with the region. We are also helped by the fact that for Indians, South East Asia is an important travel destination. I would like to mention that India-Cambodia tourism trade has tremendous potential for expansion. I am also told that a large number of Cambodian tourists travel to India for pilgrimage purposes. Such visits boost our tourism business and people- to-people contacts," President Patil said.

"There exists tremendous scope for developing trade and investment relations between India and Cambodia, which should be realized by business persons of the two countries that have deep civilizational links and a time-tested friendship, she concluded. By Praful Kumar Singh(ANI)

Source: oneinidia

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Cambodia buys 94 tanks, APCs from E. European sellers


PHNOM PENH, Sep. 15, 2010 (Kyodo News International) -- Cambodia has purchased 94 tanks and armored personnel carriers from Eastern Europe sellers to strengthen its military capacity, a senior military official told Kyodo News on Wednesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the tanks and APCs, along with several heavy military trucks, will arrive this weekend at Cambodia's coastal Sihanoukville Province about 230 kilometers southwest of Phnom Penh.
According to the official, of the 94 vehicles, 50 are T55 tanks and the other 40 are PTR26 APCs.

But the official refused to reveal the countries where the military vehicles were bought and nor their cost.

Other military sources suggested Cambodia decided to buy the equipment from Eastern Europe because many Cambodian military personnel were trained in Eastern Europe, especially in the then Soviet Union or countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.

When asked about the purchase new military equipment, Lt. Gen. Chhum Socheat, a spokesman for Cambodia's National Defense Ministry, said he had not been informed of new equipment, but added that was not surprising.

He said many countries are buying new military hardware and strengthening their military capabilities for ''their own homeland security as well as for the common fight against terrorism.''

The report of the new military equipment coincides with a visit to China by Cambodian Defense Minister Tea Banh.

According to Chhum Socheat, the minister left for China on Tuesday and will stay there for a week during which he will visit some factories producing military hardware.

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Monday, September 06, 2010

Diplomacy set to pay dividend in Cambodia


Thailand seeks lead role in investment

Source: Bangkok Post

Thailand hopes to regain its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia over the next five years now that the two countries have resumed diplomatic ties after months of strained relations.

Thai investment in Cambodia has fallen dramatically over the past seven years.

The relationship between the two soured notably in 2003 when the Thai embassy and some Thai businesses were heavily damaged by rioters in Phnom Penh. They had been reacting to fabricated reports quoting a Thai actress as saying that Angkor Wat belonged to Thailand.

Relations subsequently improved but became strained again last year as the two countries feuded over the Preah Vihear temple, leading to their ambassadors being recalled. Both envoys last month returned to their jobs, and Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva and Prime Minister Hun Sen are expected to hold talks later this month.

Thailand's investments based on approvals by the Cambodia Investment Board totalled only five projects worth US$15.5 million last year. The country ranked sixth in project numbers and third in project value, behind China ( $42.3 million) and Vietnam ($24.7 million).

Over the past 16 years, Thai investments in Cambodia totalled 81 projects worth $362.35 million. Most were in hotels, agro-industry, wood processing, food processing, telecoms, medical services, electricity, mining, garments and shoes.

Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot said Thailand had potential to resume its leadership in foreign investment in Cambodia, if it can capitalise on the potential of National Road No. 5 as the land transport gateway to Vietnam and China.

The 407-kilometre highway connects Phnom Penh with Aranyaprathet in the Thai border province of Sa Kaeo. From Phnom Penh the road links to the Moc Bai-Bavet border crossing with Vietnam.

Mr Alongkorn and a group of Thai businesspeople recently travelled the road through Cambodia to Vietnam to explore the potential.

He said the Thai government planned to set up a special economic zone in Ban Pa Rai in Aranyaprathet to promote ties with Cambodia. It would offer comprehensive import-export services, distribution centres, customer services and an industrial estate covering about 1,000 rai.

The zone would be linked with Cambodia's Poipet O'Neang Special Economic Zone which occupies 2,000 rai opposite Ban Pa Rai.

Mr Alongkorn said the zone would be proposed to economic ministers and the cabinet in the new two weeks.

The special economic zone would be the second with a neighbouring country after the one that straddles Mae Sot district in Tak and Myawaddy in Burma. A special economic zone gives entrepreneurs more investment flexibility through such things as relaxed labour rules.

Thailand is currently the fifth largest trading partner of Cambodia behind the United States, Vietnam, China and Hong Kong. Bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $492.8 million last year, $477.2 million of which came from Thai exports.

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